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Q&A – Anna Gunn (Skyler White)

The actress discusses playing poker with Bryan Cranston and internalizing anger with cigarettes in AMCtv.com’s exclusive interview.

Q: Skyler’s attitude seems to have shifted pretty drastically between this season and last. How did you approach the character differently?

A: Skyler is such a smart person. Vince [Gilligan] has said that it’s been difficult to keep Skyler in the dark because she’s a savvy person and she’s clocking what’s going on. She’s willing to a certain extent to say, “OK, well the guy’s got terminal cancer and he’s dealing with a hell of a lot, so I guess I’ll suspend disbelief.” But in Season 2 she’s starting to say, “Come on. What is really going on here?” I think the continuance of his behavior starts to get under her skin. Everybody is going to break somewhere along the way, and she’s starting to break a little bit.

Q: I would say so: She smokes a cigarette!

A: Uh huh. Yeeaaah. That’s going to be a popular choice! [Laughs]. We were kidding about it and Bryan [Cranston] said, “I think we’re going to get more letters about you smoking than we get about me cooking crystal.” A person should obviously not be smoking or doing anything like that when they’re pregnant. But she’s at her wits end. She doesn’t know what to do. It was exciting because it was an unexpected thing. Instead of having her scream and yell and jump up and down — well, she does a little bit of yelling — it’s like she internalizes it, and smoking is a way of internalizing what’s happening instead of getting it out.

Q: What was it like to shoot the scene where Skyler confronts Walt?

A: It was fabulous! [Laughs.] She’s really trying to gauge what is going on with her husband in that scene. So she’s watching him very closely — it’s almost like playing poker, and watching somebody across the table, looking for a tell. She’s very careful in the way that she approaches it, and I think at the same time, she wants desperately to say, “Please tell me what’s going on.” But she doesn’t. And I think that Bryan and I approached it very directly with each other. That scene is all about what the other person knows, what I have to reveal, and what I keep to myself. I don’t even play poker, but I watch it because I think it’s really interesting what people have to keep to themselves and what they have to put on the table — sizing up your opponent, as it were. So I think that came to me when we were doing that scene.

Q: Was it difficult to shoot the scene where Walt essentially rapes Skyler?

A: God, yes it was. But Bryan was directing and he had so clearly done his homework. He knew what the scene had to be, and we choreographed it, and then we actually never rehearsed. He turned on the cameras and we just did what we did, and that’s what it turned out to be. It was extremely upsetting — at one point when we got to the point where my face hits the refrigerator, I actually was off a little bit and I hit my face on the corner. I kind of cracked myself and went down on the floor, and Bryan was just mortified. But when you’re in that environment you feel completely safe, and that’s what gives us the feeling that we can make it as real and as ugly as it has to be.

Q: Did you have to wear a bigger pregnant belly this season?

A: Last year we had some issues with the belly because sometimes when I sat down it would bend, and we’re like, “Hey, that’s not so good if the baby’s bending.” So this year they built a really great latex belly — and there was one size for the majority of the time I’m pregnant through the second season. But it was big.

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